What is a Heat Pump and How Does it Work?

What is a Heat Pump and How Does it Work?As of 2020, nearly 18 million US households used heat pumps for space heating — a 50% increase since 2015. Air conditioners, furnaces, and heat pumps are all HVAC systems. However, only a heat pump can act alone to provide both heating and cooling by redistributing heat.

How Heat Pumps Work

Regardless of temperature, outdoor air includes some amount of heat energy. In the winter, air-source heat pumps take in outdoor air, isolate and compress the heat in it, and push the hot air into the home. In the summer, these heat pumps follow the same process except in reverse, pulling the heat out of indoor air and pushing it outside.

Ground-source heat pumps, which involve pipes buried in the ground, work on the same concept, except they are pulling heat out of the ground.

Heat pumps are most popular in locations where the temperature rarely dips below freezing, since air-source heat pumps have difficulty warming a home quickly at lower temperatures. In areas where temperatures often fall below freezing, the heat pump is accompanied by a regular furnace that picks up the slack.

Although ground-source heat pumps don’t have as much problem heating a home during very cold temperatures, they need significant ground space for burying the geothermal pipes which makes them more common in commercial applications.

The most effective type of heat pump for someone’s home is determined by the specific purpose of the pump, the energy consumption rate, noise level, installation and maintenance costs, and the amount of space on the property.

Heat Pump Components

Air-source heat pumps have two main components: an indoor unit, called the air handler, and an outdoor unit, called the heat pump. The air-source heat pump resembles a central air conditioning unit and the air handler, being much smaller, is often mounted on an indoor wall. A compressor in the outdoor unit circulates refrigerant that absorbs and releases heat as it travels between the indoor and outdoor units.

Like any HVAC system, heat pumps need regular cleaning and maintenance. Dirty components, including coils, filters, and fans, will affect indoor air quality and the unit’s ability to efficiently heat the home. Heat pumps that are not well-maintained often incur damage that leads to premature system replacement. Heat pump filters need to be changed monthly, or more often in dustier climates.

Is a heat pump right for you?

Northern Climate Control will make sure your HVAC system is operating as efficiently as possible. Our skilled technicians provide fast, affordable inspection, maintenance, and repair services throughout the Denver Metro Area. Northern Climate Control offers top-quality Rheem gas furnaces, convenient financing, and the area’s best service crews. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can help!